I should learn to ski. Or snowboard. Or backcountry ski, which is somehow different than regular skiing — mainly because you pay more for equipment, don’t ride a chairlift, and are 98% more likely to die (the other two percent is for the people who die when doing regular skiing).
Or I could start cross-country skiing, which has all the effort of backcountry skiing without any of the fun.
I’ve got to start doing one of those things, because then I could be one of the people who, when it starts getting cold, gets all cheerful and says things like, “Bring it on! When you’re in Utah, Winter’s the best season if you’re a [insert snow-based activity here]!”
Seriously, someone said that to me as I was mountain biking on Corner Canyon Friday afternoon, just as it was starting to snow.
He even said the square bracketed part, including saying “open square bracket” and “close square bracket,” which I thought peculiar and perhaps even unnecessary.
Anyway, I need to be one of those people who says that kind of thing, instead of the kind of person who gets that kind of thing said to.
Because, as it turns out, I do not like riding my bike outside in the bitter cold and dark.
I verified this yesterday afternoon.
My Math Skills Are Suspect
Yesterday was cold. Probably not the coldest it will be all year, but cold enough that anytime I went out during the day, I suddenly would discover an utterly compelling reason for not being outside after all. Here are some of those reasons:
- I do not really need to take out the trash, because if I put the trash here by the door, one of my kids will probably eventually take the trash out themselves, at which point they will have learned a valuable lesson in responsibility and taking initiative.
- I do not actually need to go buy groceries after all, because there is still rice in the pantry. And there’s also a box of Nilla Wafers. Sure, the Nilla wafers are a couple years pass their expiration date and have a rather sharpish smell for Nilla Wafers, but I’m sure they’re fine.
- I do not think the fire in my kitchen is very serious, and most grease fires — even the ones that are eight-feet high, like the one in my kitchen — usually burn themselves out in a moment or two.
By 3:45 in the afternoon, though, my cabin fever had reached parity with my cold avoidance. So I texted Dug — I now text everyone, instead of talking with them in person on the phone, because it’s much slower and less personal — asking him if he was at home. If so, I’d bring over the first season of 24 he wanted to borrow.
Dug allowed that he was at home, and that it was a good time to come over.
So I suited up. Base layer. Windfront tights. Gloves. Full-sleeve jersey. And then I rode the approximately eight miles to Dug’s house. Started about 4:15.
Since Dug lives in Suncrest and I live in Alpine, the trip to Dug’s house is all uphill for me, and I warmed up quickly. I was enjoying myself, but my enjoyment was tempered by the following observations:
- The snow on the side of the road had been melting, but it was cold enough that I had high confidence in the likelihood of an imminent freeze. Luckily, the tires of my road bike are rock hard, less than half an inch wide, and have no tread whatsoever. So ice on the road on the return trip shouldn’t be a problem.
- The sun was going down. Rather faster than usual, it seemed to me. As if it had conceded defeat on its mission of warming anything up that day and was anxious to just get the whole secondary mission of keeping the outside light over with for the day. And truth be known, I have still not gotten used to this “dark by 5:15pm” thing. And hadn’t exactly taken it into account when I started my ride.
- It was cold outside. I believe I have made this point before, but some points are worth emphasizing through reiteration. This is one of those points.
As I got closer, I formulated a new plan for how I would get home. It went a little like this: Instead of riding home, I would bum a ride off Dug. After all, I’d have just given him 24 installments of indoor cycling entertainment, along with a brand new jersey. He’d be in a generous mood.
I knocked on Dug’s door. Then rang the doorbell. Then did both at once, using the door as a percussive counterpoint to the melody I was tapping out on the doorbell.
And yet, nobody came to the door. As I would later find out, Dug and his family all hate me and want me to die, and therefore hid in the basement until I left.
It’s also possible they were watching a movie downstairs and didn’t hear the doorbell / knock. Possible, I say, but pretty darned unlikely.
So. Evidently I needed to ride my bike home after all.
In the summertime, this would be the best part. Eight miles of downhill. Last night, however, it was decidedly not the best part. Because it was dark. And cold. And the wet road was starting to put the “ice” in “dicey.” (I just made that little wordplay up; feel free to use it in your own conversations, as long as you give me proper credit.)
I started the ride down.
By the time I got about a third of the way down Suncrest, my fingers hurt. By the time I got halfway down, my eyes had stopped working properly. By the time I was two thirds of the way down, I had started moaning. And by three quarters of the way home, my reaction time had slowed, my face was so brittle with cold that a light tap with a ball peen hammer would surely have shattered it.
I was so muddled from the cold — and sure, the dark might’ve had something to do with it — that I was no longer sure of where I was. Certainly I must have gotten lost, I thought, because this was taking way too long.
But — as streetlights started coming on — I got home. I left my shoes on as I went in the house, because I knew there was absolutely no way I’d be able to get those shoes off with my fingers like this.
So I sat on the floor. And discovered — not for the first time — that the only thing worse than having your fingers numb with cold is when they have warmed up just enough to get feeling back.
Which, I think, is a superb explanation for why, five minutes after I got home, I was rolling around on the floor, weeping in pain.
And as I rolled, I found myself thinking one thing, very very clearly: “I will never ever ever do the Ititarod. Ever. No matter what.”
Eventually, the pain subsided, and a seven-hour-long hot shower (I have an enormous hot water heater) left me feeling just fine.
But I think I may need to buy some warmer gloves before I go riding again. Or better yet, I’d like the weather I had last week — the weather that had me riding in shorts and short sleeves — back.
Because I don’t think backcountry skiing is on the menu this year.